By Deb Murphy
The old saying—be careful what you wish for—keeps coming to mind as the majestic, snow-laden Sierra gets ready to melt into the Owens Valley.
For Inyo County Agricultural Commissioner Nate Reade, all that water means a whole lot of mosquitoes this coming spring.
“Last year we’d get calls that someone saw a mosquito in their yard—that’s a mosquito,” Reade told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday. “It’s a whole new world this year.”
Faced with an invasion of the pesky bugs, Reade called a management summit last month, a summit that included current and past staff. Since mosquitoes haven’t been a big issue through the past five drought years, past staff were included to help develop a “successful strategy,” Reade said.
Reade presented a good-news-bad-news scenario relating to the Owens River running at 700 cubic feet per second through this fall. “The nasty, pesky mosquitoes will have no place to hatch with rapid flows,” he said. But, the skeeters that carry West Nile or other exotic diseases will still be able to hatch. “West Nile hasn’t been seen in the area since 2011,” Reade said as some reassurance.
To identify the presence of disease-carrying bugs, the Ag Commissioner’s office has been building their own traps for disease surveillance.
In addition, the office has stocked up on pesticides, hired five seasonal employees and allocated a vehicle just for mosquito control efforts. “We use an organic method,” Reade said in reference to the pesticides that contain a toxin found in the soil. Four of the five seasonal employees will have to be trained and licensed, quickly. “The mosquito guys are a little terrified,” Reade said.
For residents sensitive to the ground fogging, the office has developed a phone app that includes information on where and when the fogging will occur as an adjunct to weekly press releases. The office also has a list of residents who want to be contacted prior to the fogging.
The mosquito abatement will focus on valley communities, nuisance control, special events and outlaying recreational areas, in that order.
The one huge unknown is the brine pools on the Owens Lake. “We just don’t know,” what to expect, Reade said. “We have no frame of reference.”
Other Meeting Highlight
A relatively simple timed item on Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ agenda ended up emphasizing the complexity of the topic: the formation of Groundwater Sustainability Agencies under the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
The Board held a public hearing on the County filing the necessary documents with the state Department of Water Resources, notifying the department of its intent to serve as the GSA for the Owens River Groundwater Basin in the county, excluding the city of Bishop’s jurisdiction.
The supervisors voted in the affirmative but public comment focused on the details of what a final GSA would look like, who’d be at the table in the negotiations for a Joint Powers Agreement, what role mutual water companies would play, etc.